171 Robson Street
Tel: (604) 689-3497
Charals provides excellent service and offers a wide selection of pens and accessories within a very pleasant and upscale decor.
Al Charania has been successful in having his store be more than only a pen store. He carries lines of related merchandise of interest to business professionals or those who want accessories consistent with owning a quality pen.
In addition to the wide selection of pens there are leather desk accessories, writing paper products, watches and business related luggage.
I have been visiting Charals since I returned to Vancouver in 1987.
Whether to see the wide range of pens or to buy a Filofax refill, visiting the store and talking with Al Charania has always been a great experience.
After biting his teeth in retail with a small shop in New Westminster, BC. Al went bold and opened Charals in the centre of Vancouver, in the historic Sinclair Centre. With changes that took place at Sinclair Centre, Al moved his store to its present location at 171 Robson Street in Vancouver.
Back in 2012, when I wrote a pience on the 2012 Anniversary, I had the opportunity to talk with Leo Desautels, Director, Sales & Channel Marketing for Newell Rubbermaid Office Products about Charals. The Office Products Division of Newell Rubbermaid owns Parker and Waterman. Newell Rubbermaid's vision includes to be a global company of "Brands that Matter". Those brands include fine writing instruments. Similarly, Charals selects and array of brands that meet customer needs for their client. Leo Desautels notes that Charals is a good example of a store that knows and understands the value of brands. The products and brands selected, the central downtown business-centre location and the upscale architecture of the Sinclair Centre all nicely come together.
The impact of the previous economic recession has been felt by the entire retail industry. For the pen retail trade it has meant that customers are more price conscious and seeking the best quality they can have with their purchase.
Al says the Internet has really changed the scope of comparisons that customers make. It is part of the business model now. Al's web site (www.charals.com) means that Charals is part of the web-based product comparison that costumers now make on a ongoing basis.
Charal's customers include business clients in the downtown centre of Vancouver. The majority of the pens sold at the store tend to be rollerball and ball point models. Fountains pens are a regular part of his business, but not the majority of pens sales.
I acquired my Visconti Homo Sapiens fountain pen from Charals, after visiting with the owner of Visconti, Dante del Vecchio in Florence, getting this pen was very meaningful.
But in the end when you put product and selection in a store, Al says it is the quality of service which is of prime importance. He tries to make this a defining aspect of being a customer of Charals.
Al explains that with a pen, quality is even more important as the pen is an item your hold in your hand. Your fingers feel every detail of the pen. The fit of the various parts. The finishing. The balance. It all goes into what he considers the total package of the pen.
Al likes to spend time with his customers and he is pleased to have them try a pen. As he explained, that is the part of the business transaction that the store can exceed. A customer may find a better price of a pen somewhere by searching on the Internet. None matches the experience of holding and discussing the pen. The in-store experience is the edge that retail stores will always hold over Internet sales.
In terms of looking forward, Al is optimistic about the pen business. Pens meets a need. He see's an ongoing interest in pens and in individuals wanting to have a pen that is their own.
As for his advice to the pen manufacturers. He says it is all about the quality of the product. Pen companies have to keep this as one of their primary business principles. Manufacturing locations may change, however, in the end the success or failure of the brand line rests with is quality of the pen itself, and that is something over which the manufactures have total control.
The Robson Street store opened as the Graf Von Faber-Castell Boutique for Vancouver.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the new Graf von Faber-Castell Boutique in Charals' new store on Robson Street. This is one of four Boutiques Graf von Faber-Castell will open in Canada. They are proud for this to be the first on the West Coast.
The new store has an elegant yet comfortable feel to it. The high ceiling create a roomy atmosphere. The walls have beautiful cases with Graf von Faber-Castell pens as well as Montblanc, Waterman, Visconti, Dupont and Parker. In addition there are leather desk accessories.
For those who have shopped at Charal's store in the Sinclair Centre on West Hastings, you know Al carries high quality lines and offers excellent service. From the Pen of the Year, to the Perfecft Pencil. The stores carries a full line of the high quality and extremely well designed Graf von Faber-Castell writing instruments